In yet another disappointing blow to the LGBT community, its allies, and equality, the Republicans in the Senate (with the help of two Blue Dog Democrats) successfully filibustered and killed the Defense Authorization Bill which contained the legislative repeal of the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that bans open services by gays and lesbians in the military.
By a vote of 56-43, a unanimous GOP block of Senators led by John McCain, and joined by Senators Pryor & Blanche Lincoln (both Democrats from Arkansas), blocked the debate and vote for cloture on the Authorization Bill. On a side note, both of Illinois' Democratic Senators, Dick Durbin and Roland Burris, voted for repeal of DADT. In laymen's terms: for the first time in history, the Defense Authorization Bill was filibustered and killed all in the name of homophobia and outright bigotry against LGBT Americans.
This is a huge setback to a legislative repeal of DADT. There is still a slight chance of a lame-duck Senate vote in December, after the midterm elections. That is also the month that the major Pentagon study on the DADT policy is due and the House of Representatives have already passed the bill with the DADT repeal language. This option is still a HUGE "if" scenario. After a hard midterm election cycle, will Harry Reid bring another vote? No one knows. One thing that is certain, however, is that the vehement opposition from the GOP is certain to stay. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is unequivocally opposed to repealing DADT or giving the Democratic leadership any kind bipartisan agreement, and so-called moderates like Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine voted with their anti-gay GOP cohorts in this last vote to keep DADT.
The other huge problem is the increasingly bitter and mean-spirited opposition from Senator John McCain. His mercurial positions on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" continue to tack further into right-wing bigotry land. While he once said he would revisit the DADT policy if the military leaders supported repeal (back when he was trying to appear more moderate in the Presidential elections), he now continues to move the goal posts for repeal. After the military leadership came out in support of the repeal, he said he needed to "hear from the troops" with a military study. Now that that study is being implemented, he continues to let his bigot flag fly by not only leading the filibuster effort that successfully killed the repeal, but now attacking the study so he can continue his angry tirade against gays and lesbians serving our country.
In the recent hearing to confirm the next commandant of the Marine Corps, McCain launched into attacks against the study, saying:
You know that this study, quote unquote, does not assess the impact of morale and effectiveness on the repeal of the law?
His new line of attack is clear: the study is a fake and shouldn't be considered. Way to move the goal post yet again, McCain...
The whole reasoning of the GOP against repeal is clearly falling apart and they are now using stall tactics and outright bigotry ("yikes! There will be gays in the showers!") to try to keep the homophobes in the military and in their party who are uncomfortable with LGBT people happy. The logic, the basic civil rights, the studies, the huge generational gap on the issue, and the reality that there are already gays and lesbian serving honorably are all against the right-wing and they are desperately grasping for straws.
And they are still winning, as this vote showed.
There is another DADT repeal hope on the horizon. A recent federal court ruling found "Don't ask, Don't Tell" to be unconstitutional. LGBT organizations and activists are pressuring the Obama Administration not to appeal the ruling, which could effectively kill the ban. The chances of that, however, are slim since the Administration has already defended other anti-gay laws they say they disagree with in court cases, like the Defense of Marriage Act. To sign the petition to demand the White House not appeal the decision, you can visit this site.
This defeat in the Senate doesn't bode well for LGBT rights on the federal level. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was considered low-hanging fruit and an easy "get" supported by the vast majority of Americans in poll after poll, including among Republican voters and Christians. If we can't get this done and Republicans are willing to vote against defense spending, which is their sacred cow, then I fear for the future of other important LGBT issues, like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act or repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (both of which were campaign promises made to the progressive community by this administration in the campaign).
There are promising movements being made through the court system and we do have some champions for equality in elected office, but this defeat makes it perfectly clear that as far as we have come when it comes to civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, we still have so much further to go. We have to continue to fight, to hold our elected officials accountable with our votes and our dollars, and to work at every level and branch of government. We can't sit back and count on one party or the soaring promises made to us in campaigns to create the change we need in our everyday lives.
We have to work harder. We have to protest louder. We have to keep fighting.